Universities ban Muslim headscarf

May 24, 2002

Some higher education institutions in Azerbaijan have banned female students from wearing headscarves on campus.

The institutions, which include Baku State University and the Medical University, argue that the ban is in keeping with the state's secular constitution.

There are direct parallels with Turkey, where the headscarves issue has become a flashpoint between Islamic opposition parties and the government.

But Azerbaijan's Centre for the Protection of Religion and Freedom of Conscience has denounced the ban as a violation of religious rights.

When the Medical University announced that after May 10, women wearing headscarves would be excluded from lectures, the centre warned that this could lay the university authorities open to prosecution.

The Azerbaijani government is wary of religious fanaticism and plans to introduce a course in the "foundations of religion" in state secondary schools from September in an effort to promote mutual understanding and tolerance among different faiths.

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